Tag Archives: Positive Parenting

Extraordinary Endurance, Chandra Ziegler

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I’m not here to provide any life-changing advice on how to raise kids. The truth is, as parents, we make hundreds of decisions any given day. We answer questions, and ask questions, sometimes straight to our kids, and other times just in our minds. From the moment they wake up until they fall asleep, we’re on duty. There’s already enough people telling us what to do, and what not to do. It can all be very exhausting.

What I will provide is a simple story and some tips on how to stay fit for the marathon of parenting, a feat that truly tests our limits, and one that takes extraordinary endurance.

Should I really give her juice as soon as she wakes up? What kind of habit am I creating? Maybe I should wake them up with nice classical music. Why couldn’t she sleep for a little longer? Do you want to lay back down, sweetie? Why didn’t I douse myself in patchouli? What should I pack in their lunches? No, you cannot wear your pajamas to school. Why are you still in bed? Did you brush your teeth? Do you have your snow pants? Yes, you need to wear a hat and gloves; it’s 3 degrees outside! Check watch…7:07 a.m.

Fast-forward to 8:07 p.m…

I let the older two watch Sofia the First a little longer than they should, which led to them being tired and cranky, and not so kind to one another in the bathroom while getting ready for bed. I could’ve walked away, used a nice, calm voice, remembered to have a sense of humor, or had some empathy… all those great parenting and teaching tricks that I know work, and have used a thousand times. Instead, I got irrationally upset.

Once we all settled down, and I got them to bed, I heard yelling and arguing so I went back into their bedroom. I looked at Emma, who had a thousand things surrounding her and asked, “Emma, look around you! I just don’t understand. Why do you need all this stuff???” And as I watched the tears well up in her eyes, she proclaimed with enough drama to win an Academy Award, “It’s just that I love you so much that I have to build up all this stuff around me to try to replace you, and help me calm down!”

I seriously melted. I embraced her and said how much I loved her and how happy I was that she still loved me even when I yell at her. We were able to rewind the not-so-good bedtime, and end with peace and calm. Thank goodness.

Parenting is hard, and I believe we’re all doing the best we can.

Whether you’re a parent of little kids, big kids, furry kids, or no kids, I know you can relate. While there can be many rip-your-hair-out moments as a parent, there are far more joyous moments and reasons to celebrate. We can become inundated with information, but in the end we just need to trust ourselves.

Children are kind, intelligent, incredibly sweet, far more enlightened than we give them credit for, and simply hilarious. We need to stay in the moment, see the world through the eyes of a child, look for the pearl, and live more joyfully. Since I said I wasn’t going to give any advice, I’ll just call that homework.

Because parenting is the toughest job on the planet, and requires extraordinary endurance, and an exorbitant amount of energy, we must first show up for ourselves. We need to take care of our physical, emotional, and spiritual bodies so we can more fully take care of the precious humans we’ve been gifted. So here are some things to consider doing:

– Rise at 5 a.m. to do some quiet reading or writing or anything else that you love.
– Rise at 5 a.m. to get a workout in to a) train for a marathon, b) burn off the calories from all the Halloween candy you stole from your toddler’s pumpkin or simply, c) stay sane and be a better parent, spouse, and person as a whole.
– Be happy with where you’re at and your decisions.
– If possible, take a day for you.
– Take any help that is offered.
– Get active in the outdoors. It’s good for the body, mind, and soul.
– Give a massage, get a massage.
– Play now, clean later.

7:07 p.m the next day..

Emma tiptoed quietly into Kate’s room as I was rocking her to sleep. She kissed her, squeezed her tight, and said, “You are so beautiful and kind! You will change the world. I just love you so much. You will make the world a better place because you’re so kind.”

The tears rolled down my cheeks. Emma noticed and asked, “Why are you crying?” All I could squeak out was, “I just love you so much.” But in my heart, I thought ‘Maybe I’m doing okay as a mom. Maybe the messages and lessons I’m trying to impart to my children are really sinking in.’ Because you know what? Sometimes it’s hard to tell if they hear what I’m saying.

For instance, how many times have I said, “Put your pajamas on, brush your teeth, that’s enough chips, hands are for helping, stop hitting your sister!” But tonight, I can pause and thank God that the things I’m saying and how I’m living are making a difference.

A child’s love is unconditional, so remember this:

“It doesn’t matter what color you are. The most special thing is that you have someone that loves you.” – Four-year-old

Your spirit is strong and vibrant, so when the going gets tough, tell yourself,
“I can do this. I just have to be brave.” – Six-year-old

You are extraordinary. And maybe you’re not an athlete, or active at all, but trust yourself that you have the endurance it takes to keep going and be the best parent you can be.

Chandra Ziegler is a Yooper wannabe in Crystal Falls with a Minnesota heart. By day, she is a mother of three girls and teacher to even more. By “night,” she runs non-profit Iron Endurance, teaches yoga and painting classes, trains for marathons, and writes.

Excerpted with permission from the Spring 2020 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine. Copyright 2020, Empowering Lightworks, LLC.

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Positive Parenting: Simplify This Holiday Season, by Angela Johnson

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The holidays are meant to be a time of peace, connection, and celebration. However, in our consumer-driven culture, the holidays seem to be more about guilt-driven gift giving than the deeper meaning of the season. There are many reasons to want to share more meaning than money this holiday season. You may want to simplify the holidays for less stress, environmental concerns of unnecessary consumption and waste, or maybe you can’t afford to spend that much this year. When I was looking for some resources to support this article, I came across a lovely quote that inspires my reasons for wanting to simplify the holidays:

If you want your children to turn out well, spend twice as much time with them, and half as much money. – Abigail Van Buren

I have two teenage daughters, and for me this quote rings true. Over the years, it is the quality time that I have shared with them, not the gifts I have given, that forms our strong bond, cherished memories, and the base of their overall well-being. This quote is a good reminder of that truth and it makes me want to do even better for them. Yes, do better for them by giving them less. I even like the mathematical formula for this and may try it out this year. “Twice as much time, and half as much money.” This might be a good place to start.

Okay, so maybe you’re sold as I am, but now what? How do we fill the void of piles of presents under the Christmas tree? We still want Christmas to be special, and depending on the age of your children, Santa may still be visiting. So how exactly does this whole simplifying the holidays thing work? According to the “Simplify the Holidays” booklet by The New American Dream (www.newdream.org), the best place to start is with some personal reflection:

“Before deciding how to simplify, take a moment to reflect on what kind of holiday celebration you want. Are you looking for more activities to enjoy with your children? A celebration focused more deeply on nature? New charitable or community-based traditions? A clearer confirmation of your spiritual beliefs? Or are you trying to reduce stress and get a little extra time to sleep? Once you have decided what you want to do differently, it’s easier to decide how to act.”

Once you’ve done a little contemplation, I suggest checking out “The More Fun, Less Stuff Catalog,” also created by the Center for the New American Dream (https://newdream.org/downloads/New_Dream_More_Fun_Less_Stuff_Catalog.pdf).

My favorite idea from the catalog is a coupon book.

In the catalog, you can download a free, easy-to-use coupon template which you can customize. I have done this for my husband in the past, and he loved it. (He keeps all his coupons in the drawer next to his side of the bed with all his special keepsakes.)

The catalog has great ideas for all the people in your life—from children to other family members, and friends. Whether it’s art lessons, concert tickets, donations to a charity, or handmade gifts, there are tons of wonderful ideas. Some people, especially those with children, may still want to purchase a few store-bought items.

What I usually do with my children is use the holiday gift-giving time to buy them one or two things they need and also some things we can share as a family. Things they might need include socks, or a pair of jeans without holes in them (when they were younger the holes were from playing and now as teenagers, they are because they bought them ripped!). Either way, this mom prefers the no-holes version. Another idea, if you still want to purchase something simple to put under the tree, consider family-fun items such as a good board game or outdoor play gear (sled, fishing pole, etc.). Right now, my daughters and I are totally hooked on Scrabble. Back in the day, it was Memory and Sorry! If games aren’t your family’s thing, think of what is, and take this holiday season to invest in quality time doing that.

When thinking about buying less this holiday season, a good place to focus instead is on quality family traditions.

This might be something classic such as making Christmas cookies together or watching or reading a favorite holiday story. Children (and adults) love family traditions, and if you want to focus less on gift giving, creating a new holiday family tradition is a great place to start. It could be a simple as a walk through the woods, but oh, how fun it could be to traipse through the snow as a family under the stars on Christmas Eve! Maybe that’s just me, but whatever you choose, tailor it to your unique and wonderful family, and have fun!

Simplifying will mean different things to different people. No matter what you decide to cut back on materialistically speaking, I wish you and your family a holiday filled with “less is more” meaning, so here’s wishing you less stuff, and more quality peace, meaningful connection and celebration this holiday season.

Angela Johnson, Great Start Collaborative (GSC) Director for Marquette and Alger Counties, works at Marquette-Alger Regional Educational Service Agency (MARESA). The Great Start Collaborative (https://www.maresa.org/early-on/marquette-alger-great-start-collaborative/) works in communities throughout the state to ensure Michigan is making progress towards four priority early childhood outcomes.

Reprinted with permission from the Winter 2019-2020 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine. All rights reserved.

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Positive Parenting: 6 Tips for a Great Start Back to School, by Angela Johnson

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Back to school is an exciting time.

However, without the proper preparation, it can also become stressful for both you and your children. Here are six tips from your local Great Start Collaborative on how you can give you and your children a great start to the school year!

1. Keep a Regular Sleep Routine

Routines help children feel comfortable. A week or so before school begins, start to readjust bedtime schedules to be more in line with the school day schedule. Establishing a good school year bedtime routine where your children go to bed at the same time every night will help them feel rested, relaxed, and ready to learn!

The time allotted to provide your child with a relaxing bedtime routine will vary some, but on average, you want to work in thirty minutes to an hour. After this, there should be no more electronics. According to the National Sleep Foundation, spending time on electronics within an hour of going to bed negatively affects quality of sleep.

One great option to include as part of your child’s bedtime routine is quality reading time. This can be either you reading a story to them, and/or your child silently reading to him or herself. Another nice thing to do at bedtime is spend a few minutes tucking your child in and actively listening to them. Your child’s bedtime routine might also include picking out his or her outfit for the next day, and/or organizing his or her backpack, and will certainly include basics like putting pajamas on and brushing teeth.

Sleep is fundamentally important to your child’s success in school and in life, so take the time to adjust your child’s sleep schedule to the school year and you will prevent a lot of unnecessary stress.

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine guidelines, which are approved by the American Academy of Pediatrics, are as follows:

Ages 4-12 months: 12-16 hours (including naps)
Ages 1-2 years: 11-14 hours (including naps)
Ages 3-5 years: 10-13 hours (including naps)
Ages 6-12 years: 9-12 hours
Ages 13-18 years: 8-10 hours

2. Provide Healthy & Easy Food Options

In addition to making sure our children are getting plenty of rest, it’s important they fuel up with good food for their busy day of learning. I think most of us would agree that the best meals in a busy family household are the ones that are both healthy and easy! To make sure this happens, all you need is a little meal prep and weekly planning. A little something that has worked well for me over the years (my girls are 14 and 19 now). . . keep a bowl with fresh, easy-to-grab fruit out on the kitchen table. When it’s easy like that, they really do go for it!

3. Go School Shopping

Obtain a class list of required supplies for your child, and plan a special trip to pick everything out. The right tools are important for your child’s success at school. While you’re at it, make sure he or she has few new clothing items for back to school too. Having enough socks, shirts, and a good pair of shoes, etc., will alleviate a lot of laundry stress for you, and also help your child feel confident and organized for their first day of school.

4. Visit School & Talk to the New Teacher

This one is pretty straightforward and simple, but important nonetheless. Usually some type of open house is held so you can go check the school out and meet the new teacher before school year starts. Try to make this happen for your child, as it will help them to feel more connected and ready for the new school year.

5. Know your Transportation Plan

Again, this might seem like a minor detail, but it is important for you and your child to understand what transportation to and from school will be like. It’s a basic thing, but important to work out and discuss with your child so they feel comfortable with how they will be getting to and from school.

6. Slow Down & Make Time for Balanced Living

We live in a fast-paced society, so it takes a conscious effort to slow down and not fall victim to the stress associated with such a speedy tempo. It is important to both your health as a parent and your child’s as well to not overschedule the family.

Take care of yourself as the parent. Listen to what you need to maintain peace and balance, and give yourself some time for that each day.

Listen to your children. Give them your full, undivided, quality attention each day. Give them free-play. Set limits on technology. Eat a meal together. Play a game together. Just be together.

Powerful times to listen and connect with your children are right after school, during dinnertime and at bedtime.

Best wishes to you and your family in the 2019/2020 school year!

*The Marquette-Alger GSC welcomes any professionals and/or parents/caregivers that touch the lives of children in our community, from pregnancy to eight years old. Our next meeting will be Monday, September 16 at MARESA from 11:30-1:30. (Lunch is provided). Please RSVP with Angela @ 906-869-0566 or ajohnson@maresa.org.

Angela Johnson, Great Start Collaborative (GSC) Director for Marquette and Alger Counties, works at Marquette-Alger Regional Educational Service Agency (MARESA). The Great Start Collaborative (https://www.maresa.org/early-on/marquette-alger-great-start-collaborative/) works in communities throughout the state to ensure Michigan is making progress towards four priority early childhood outcomes.

Reprinted with permission from the Fall 2019 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, copyright 2019. All rights reserved.

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Positive Parenting: Pet Care for Kids, Jenny Magli

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Caring for family pets is a big responsibility! Pets need patience, love and attention, food and water, grooming, exercise, playtime, and medical care throughout their lives. Sounds a lot like what we all require, especially kids! So with that, it is important to remember that as kids are learning responsibilities in life, they also must learn that pets are living creatures that deserve to be treated kindly and with compassion, and that they are a lifetime commitment. This can be very time consuming, but well worth the effort. The level of responsibility you teach a child certainly depends on their age. How much responsibility do you think he or she can handle? What would be age-appropriate and considered safe for him or her to do? Overall, as a parent, you are responsible for supervision in pet caretaking by making sure the pet is well cared for.

Here are some points for promoting positive pet care:

  • If there is already a pet in the home, kids will have an idea of what it takes to care for one, but still may need oversight in overall pet care. If a pet is not yet in the home, it can be helpful to start with a “pretend animal” and teach kids the basics of care that way first.
  • Help kids understand that sometimes pets do not want attention, and give examples of what that looks like so they can be respectful of that.
  • Some pets like hugs and some don’t, so it’s important for kids to understand acceptable ways to show affection.
  • Teaching a gentle, calm approach with pets is important.
  • Sometimes it’s important to leave pets alone. This is especially true when they are not feeling well, or they’ve had an eventful day.
  • Teach kids how to interact appropriately with new animals. This includes animals they meet when you’re out around town. When you come across people walking their pets, always ask the owner before approaching an animal. Remind children they must always be respectful, gentle, and cautious when meeting new animals.
  • Make it easy for kids to complete their tasks. For instance, you can draw out instructions and tape to a food container so they know how much to feed the pet.
  • Children can easily become overwhelmed when too much is required of them, so finding a balance that keeps them enthused and participating without feeling overwhelmed is key.
  • Reward smaller kids with a daily “star” for their efforts in helping with a pet-related chore. Children need praise and reward for completing tasks. Positive reinforcement promotes positive results.
  • Offer an allowance of sorts for helping with pets. This could be in the form of a “point system” where a certain number of points are given for specific chores that can be cashed in later for various things.
  • A most valuable tool in teaching kids to be responsible pet caretakers is to set an example by fulfilling this role well ourselves!

Note: There are many books available on teaching kids how to interact with animals.

*Readers are reminded it is entirely of their own accord, right, and responsibility to make informed and educated decisions on their pet’s health care. Jenny Magli disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

Jenny is a Certified Natural Health Consultant for pets and their people, and an Animal Iridology, Healing Touch for Animals (Level 2) and NES Bioenergetics practitioner. She is available for consultations and presentations. She can be reached at (906) 235-3524 or 1healthlink@gmail.com.

Excerpted with permission from Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, Winter 2018-19 Issue, copyright 2018. All rights reserved.

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Positive Parenting: Addressing the Smartphone Hang-Up, by Keith Glendon

I’ve made a career of technology. I’m an advocate of computer science education programs in our communities and public schools. I use a smartphone, a computer, and dozens of applications and internet resources every day, so it may seem odd that I don’t let my kids have a smartphone.

My eleven-year-old daughter wrote me an impressive, persuasive letter requesting a phone as a school assignment. I wrote her a letter in return. I took the opportunity to tell my daughter how much I love her, admire her, and have been proud of her patient efforts to convince me of her need for a phone. She’s been logical and creative in her approach. I had to give her credit. I have valid concerns, too – screen time, addictive distraction, cyber-bullying, texting, access to inappropriate or dangerous material. My core reason? I want to preserve her childhood. I want her to hold on to her ability to just be. I don’t want a phone taking over the spaces of her life that she fills with her innocence, presence, love of nature, and active pursuits. I don’t want texting and social media to consume the time she spends biking, writing, drawing, storytelling, or playing guitar. I want to spare her the dark side of technology.

So, I was honest. I wrote to her about her cherished childhood and about how much a phone can get in the way of the most joyous parts of life. I used myself as an example. I told her honestly about how technology sometimes consumes my time. I acknowledged my own distractions that she’s often noted with frustration. I reminded her of stories she’d shared with me about friends’ fixation on their phones.

Technology is an important part of our world today. Phones and other technology have brought our lives great benefits. I let her know I understand and support her need to have and use technology. Then I moved on to the real answer she’d been waiting for – when could she have a phone. Instead of an age or a date, I focused on important key concepts directly related to having a phone:

Responsibility – A smartphone is an expensive piece of equipment. It needs to be cared for and used responsibly: communicating maturely and respectfully with others, not bullying or gossiping; making good choices in online content, knowing when something is inappropriate; putting the phone down when it’s time to do other things.

Integrity and Trust – A smartphone gives access to apps and the internet, to communicating with people without parents knowing. With it come temptations and risks such as bullying, sending inappropriate pictures, communicating with prohibited people, and looking at adult content, so strong integrity and trustworthiness must be demonstrated.

Gratitude – A phone is a privilege. Far more people in the world do not have phones than do. A child who lives in a home with a loving family, regular food on the table, and clean drinking water is more fortunate than most. It’s important to be grateful for the things we have. A child who doesn’t recognize good fortune, express gratitude, and share his or her good fortune where possible is not ready to have a phone.

Presence – The greatest gifts we receive are simply our life and time. A phone brings a big potential drain on time, focus, and presence. So showing consistent ability to be present without a phone is a good step toward maintaining presence with a phone.

Money – Phones cost money up-front and every month thereafter, so one must have an understanding of money, value the things it’s used for, make good decisions about money, and be ready to help pay for the phone to be ready to have one.

I gave my daughter clear examples of how she could demonstrate maturity in each of these areas and told her that over the next year, we’d communicate and focus on these things with the goal of showing her readiness for a phone. I told her she could also hold me accountable for the things I was expecting of her. I closed the letter with a reminder of my love and admiration for her. She was happy to have a clear answer and seemed to beam with a sense of satisfaction over how it was delivered.

I don’t know when a child should get a phone. It’s a thorny parenting issue. I’m glad now to have created a clear construct for mature, respectful conversation with my daughter about it. I feel good about having empowered her to work on showing me when she’s ready. I can’t turn back the hands of time to simpler days when smartphones didn’t exist. Hopefully, though, with positive parenting, I can help her learn balance to preserve the simple joys in her life when she’s got her own phone.

Keith Glendon, father to three daughters and a son, a husband and practitioner of joy, always wanted to be a writer. In his early forties, he changed “I want to be a writer” to “I am a writer.” He’s grateful to share his voice with you.

Reprinted with permission from Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, Spring 2018 Issue, copyright 2018. All rights reserved.

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Positive Parenting: Brattiness or Brain Development? Important Facts About Your Little One, by Kathy Harsch

Challenging behavior  – why does it seem to be right in front of us, perhaps more often than we would like?!   I would like to empower those who have daily interaction with young children. With the power of knowledge, you will be better prepared to respond to and deal with conflict.   Knowledge of child development will help keep your young relationship in good standing.

Did you know that before the age of six, information is processed twelve times slower than in adults?   Children six to twelve process information six times slower than adults!   What does that mean?   When we walk into a room and quickly announce we need to leave; Mommy has a meeting and I need you to turn off the TV, get your shoes and backpack, and a jacket just in case it cools down;  we need to leave in just a few minutes, so be quick!”   Rarely does this common scenario take place without Mom or Dad getting flustered.  Try this – while turning off the TV, give the command, “get your shoes and backpack.”   Truly adults need to s. l. o. w. the pace down!

How many times a day have you said the word “don’t”?   Young children cannot conjugate the word “don’t” and therefore when you say “don’t throw the sand”, they hear “throw the sand” and you march over to the sandbox with the “challenging me again” thought!   We need to tell children what to do!   “Use the bulldozer to move the sand!”   It takes work to tell children what we want them to do. “Don’t” really doesn’t give them any information and “no” certainly doesn’t provide more information either.  Instead, tell children what to do.   Teach them what YOU want them TO DO!

Children under seven lack mature “inner speech.”    In adults, inner speech is like a rehearsal for what we may want to say when arriving at a new acquaintance’s place or how we might want to prepare a meal.   We can even quickly think “oh, what I would like to say” but use our filter and think before we act!   Young children see in pictures.   Adults need to paint a picture with their words. Remember, don’t” and “no” provide no information. For example, “You seem anxious, you pushed your friend when you walked into the room.  You may not push, you may come to me and stand by me if you feel anxious.” Using descriptive language helps defuse those unwanted verbal power struggles and is also a stepping stone for language and literacy, so utilize it as often and fully as possible.

If you’re in the teaching field or just simply read to children, it’s helpful to know that binocular vision, the ability of both eyes to focus on the same subject, doesn’t fully mature until around age six.   Until then, it is like covering one eye, spinning around and trying to walk down steps!   Reading a story to children and moving the book in front of their eyes is continuous motion.   In a group you’ll get the child in front saying, “I didn’t see the picture!”   They follow the book and the children in back begin to say, “I didn’t see the picture!”   Suddenly everyone is scooting, on their knees, and saying, “I didn’t see the picture!”   Instead, hold the book still, move it, then hold it still again.   We should pay attention to children’s behavior. Though it appears to us that they’ve seen the picture, they haven’t and they are not making it up!

There is so much we can do to help children plug into the rational part of the brain.   We can do the same!   Be a S.T.A.R. – Smile, Take a deep breath, And Relax!   I know you can do it! Teach your child or children the same.

Kathy Harsch has followed Dr. Becky Bailey’s teachings since attending her 2000 Marquette Early Childhood Conference presentation. She’s since attended many of Dr. Bailey’s conferences and continues to teach and learn from Conscious Discipline, School Family, and Brain Smart ways, incorporating them in her day care.

*Conscious Discipline™, School Family T, and Brain Smart™, are trademarks of Loving Guidance, Inc.  1-800-842-2846   www.ConsciousDiscipline.com.

Reprinted with permission from the Fall 2012 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, copyright 2014. All rights reserved

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Healing the Fractured Child, by Fran S. Waters, DCSW, LMSW, LMFT

In the mid-1980s, I had been treating for over a year, Eliza, an 8-year-old adopted girl who had been severely abused by her biological parents. In spite of her caring adoptive parents, Eliza was not making progress. One day, she walked into my familiar office at the local mental health center (now called Pathways), looked around at the bookshelves full of toys and books, and inquired what they were. I was stunned!

Serendipitously, a few months earlier, the clinic’s psychiatrist, Dr. Lu Kuhnhoff, who had just returned from a conference sponsored by the International Society for the Study of Dissociative Disorders, provided an in-service to a group of us interested clinicians. Dr. Kuhnhoff described signs of dissociation, including memory and identity disturbances, auditory and visual hallucinations, and a loss of consciousness (awareness). At this time, I had been specializing in treatment of sexually-abused children. I naively thought to myself that perhaps I would see one case with dissociation in my lifetime. Little did I understand that dissociation is a primitive, biological, automatic defense mechanism derived from reptiles and continued up the evolutionary chain to us mammals. Dissociation is activated when a child is faced with overwhelming fear when being abused or encountering other forms of trauma (e.g. painful medical procedures and illness), and when fighting and fleeing is simply impossible. In order to survive the frightening experience, the child segments off the horrifying event(s) from his or her consciousness as a way of escaping mentally when there is no actual way to escape.

Like other forms of mental conditions, there are different degrees of dissociation, such as: spacing out; amnesia to past traumatic events; distortion in environment in which things seem unreal or viewed through a tunnel; when the body feels numb or disconnected from self; or the child experiences a separation within the self with different identities, feelings, memories, behaviors and relationship preferences that influence the child or may take control of the body and present differently to others, as seen in Dissociative Identity Disorder-DID (formerly termed Multiple Personality Disorder). It is important to understand that those with DID are still one person with different states of consciousness or awareness. In my book Healing the Fractured Child: Diagnosing and Treating Youth with \Dissociation, I explain more thoroughly the ways dissociative symptoms can be expressed in numerous clinical cases.

Generally, traumatized children with dissociation can present with a myriad of symptoms due to shifting parts of themselves that become triggered by reminders of past traumas, e.g., smells, sights, sounds, touch. They can rapidly shift from being happy to sad to raging, and display aberrant behavior in which amnesia may be present. They can exhibit dramatic shifts in their abilities with activities such as schoolwork and sports, and in their preferences in food, dress, activities, and more. They can demonstrate severe attachment or relationship impairment due to a lack of trust and separate parts of the self not having a connection to their caregivers. These children can one moment seek out the parent and the next moment attack the parent. They often have severe attention problems marked by poor concentration and focus due to intrusive traumatic memories, or voices and images experienced in their mind that disrupt their ability to focus. They can exhibit aggressive behavior for which they have no memory, and therefore deny such behavior. Consequently, they are frequently viewed as liars. These changing moods and behaviors can confound caretakers and teachers.

I received a call from a grade school principal who told me Ryan, a 9-year-old boy (Waters, 2015) who’d been sexually abused, had turned around and suddenly hit a girl in line. When the principal witnessed this and confronted Ryan, he adamantly denied it, collapsing to the floor wailing. However, in this case, the astute principal related to me that Ryan really did not know he had done it. I knew Ryan depersonalized from his lower body since he was completely unaware of his chronic soiling problem. However, I did not know he had a more severe form of dissociation until this phone call. Upon further exploration, he, like Eliza, revealed hearing voices and seeing in his mind a separate identity that was a protector who hit the little girl who had unexpectedly knocked into him.

These traumatized, dissociative children can often receive more commonly recognized diagnoses, such as psychosis due to hallucinations, bipolar disorder due to extreme mood swings, attention deficit disorder due to poor focus, oppositional or conduct disorders due to their disruptive behavior. Unfortunately, while they have an abuse history, post-traumatic stress and dissociative disorders are often overlooked as the source of their symptoms.

Effectively parenting these children can be a daunting task. Porges (2011), who has studied how we respond to threat, discovered the crucial role of voice and eyes in fostering communication and bonding between parents and children. Porges noted that the mylenated vagal nerve, which regulates social engagement and goes from the heart to the ears and from the heart to the eyes, makes us very sensitive to loud, low sounds and angry eyes. We become threatened and our survival response system activates, causing us to disengage from the person by fighting, fleeing or freezing (a dissociative response). Therefore, Porges stresses that keeping your voice modulated and eyes warm can keep others engaged-a crucial strategy for parents to maintain a connection with their distraught child.

While it is challenging to raise a dissociative child, parents or caretakers can have a profound impact on helping their child heal. Their understanding, love, patience, and acceptance of all parts of their child provide the foundation for the child to progress in specialized treatment of his or her traumatic past and dissociation to become an integrated child. Having had the privilege of working in partnership with such parents to see their children transform into healthy, happy individuals, I can tell you the rewards of their helping their child heal are worth it!

Fran Waters is the author of Healing the fractured child: Diagnosis and treatment of youth with dissociation. She is the past president of the International Society for the Study of Trauma & Dissociation (ISSTD). She maintains a private practice in Marquette, MI.

Porges, S. (2011). The polyvagal theory: Neurophysiological foundations of emotions, attachment, communication and self-regulation. New York: W.W. Norton.
Waters, F. S. (2nd, 2015). Ryan (8 to 10 years old) –Connecting with the body: Treatment of somatoform dissociation (encopresis and multiple physical complaints). In Wieland, S. (Ed.), Dissociation in traumatized children and adolescents: Theory and clinical interventions (2nd ed.; pp.135-190). New York: Routledge.

Reprinted with permission from the Winter 2016-2017 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine.

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